Being a reviewer I found this EFF article of interest. Universal Music Group (UMG), sued an eBay seller who was reselling promotional CDs that he buys from secondhand stores. UMG argued that because the CD’s were marked ‘For Promotional use only, not for resale’ the seller had no right to sell them.

In dismissing UMG’s lawsuit late Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero ruled that the promo CDs are gifts distributed by UMG, as they are mailed free and unsolicited to thousands of people without any expectation or intention of their return. The first sale doctrine says that once the copyright owner sells or gives away a copy of a CD, DVD, or book, the recipient is entitled to resell that copy without further permission.

This gave me some food for thought. I have no idea how many CD’s and DVD’s I have in the ‘promotional’ category, I have a large wall unit this is full, and who knows how many box fulls secreted around the apartment. I do not resell for a number of reasons, the primary one being a question of ethics. I feel that it would be unethical to resell these items.

Another worry is piracy. I get a lot of screener movies and TV shows, often weeks before they hit the street. I am sure I could fins buyers, but I am equally sure that these items are digitally watermarked. If one was to find its way onto the internet I’ll bet a buck someone legal looking would be knocking on my door.

I can only think of two instances where a copyright owner even mentioned reselling. One was a major studio who sent me a screener of an upcoming movie, they sent me a two page memo threatening to remove my manhood if I posted the movie online. The other was a major cable network who sent me a soon to be aired seven part mini series. They took the approach of telling me that the DVD’s were not mine, they were just on permanent loan to me.

So folks, while it maybe legal to resell promo material, I still think that it is a potential quagmire of trouble.

Simon Barrett

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